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Random Game Callback, May 25, 1981
2006-05-25 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

A Memorial Day crowd of 40,689 at the Oakland Coliseum saw what was normal for the Oakland A's at the time, a complete game win by an Oakland pitcher. In this case, it was Steve McCatty who did the honors beating the Chicago White Sox 5-2.

Oakland manager Billy Martin and his pitching coach Art Fowler seemed to believe that the best recipe for success for his young pitching staff was to have them go the distance. In a season shortened and bisected by a strike to just 109 games, Oakland still had 60 complete games and Oakland pitchers finished 1-2-5 in the AL in complete games. Chicago manager Tony La Russa started Richard Dotson.

Both teams scored in the first inning. The White Sox strung together singles by Mike Squires, Carlton Fisk and Greg Luzinski for a run. In the bottom of the first, Rickey Henderson tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Wayne Gross to shallow left, surprising Ron LeFlore who didn't think Henderson would try to score on the play.

The tie held until the fifth inning. Designated hitter Mitchell Page led off with a single and second baseman Keith Drumright singled Page to second. After shortstop Rob Picciolo popped out, Henderson singled to left and Drumright went on to third when LeFlore misplayed the single. Center fielder Dwayne Murphy was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Right fielder Tony Armas then cleared the bases with a double to give Oakland a 5-1 lead. Kevin Hickey came into relieve and finished out the game for the White Sox.

The White Sox got one more run in the seventh when third baseman Jim Morrison homered. McCatty retired the last seven White Sox hitters to end the game.

After the game, the White Sox were not happy. La Russa and his players accused McCatty of throwing a spitball. During the game, White Sox second baseman Tony Bernazard twice asked home plate umpire Ted Hendry to inspect the ball, drawing Martin's ire. McCatty and Martin denied any shenanigans after the game in the local papers. Many fingers were pointed at White Sox backup catcher Jim Essian, who had earlier in the year, that he knew that the Oakland pitchers were throwing spitters when he was the A's catcher in 1980.

Dotson and La Russa also admitted after the game that they hadn't gone over the scouting report for Drumright, anticipating that Shooty Babitt would start at second base, but Babitt's lack of production was earning him a spot in Martin's doghouse, a place where many went in and few ever came out.

When the strike hit on June 10, the A's were ahead in the AL West by 1 1/2 games over Texas. The White Sox were in third, 2 1/2 games out. When play resumed, the A's had a playoff berth in hand, but almost won both halves, finishing just a game behind Kansas City, who had the fourth best overall record in the division. Oakland would sweep Kansas City in the Division Series and then get swept in the LCS by the Yankees.

Martin had made a dramatic turnaround in Oakland. In 1979, the A's finished 54-108. in 1980, Martin took over and led the team to an 83-79 record, which featured 94 complete games by the starters and a 21-year old Henderson who stole 100 bases. In 1981, Henderson stole 56 bases and batted .319 and had a .408 OBP. Armas tied for the AL lead in home runs with 22. With starters like McCatty, Mike Norris, Rick Langford, and Matt Keough throwing complete games nearly all the time, the bullpen didn't get a lot of work. Jeff Jones and Dave Beard tied for the team lead in saves with three. By 1982, the pitchers started breaking down and Oakland finished 68-94 and Martin was out of a job again.

La Russa, in his second full season as manager of the White Sox, got the team over the .500 mark at 54-52. Luzinski hit 21 home runs in 104 games. 22-year old right fielder Harold Baines, batted .286. La Russa was not afraid to use his bullpen as the White Sox had just 20 complete games. (For comparison purposes, La Russa's 2005 Cardinals team led the majors in complete games with 15.) Ed Farmer and La Marr Hoyt each had 10 saves. Britt Burns was the top starter with a 10-6 record and a 2.64 ERA. Fisk hit just seven home runs in his first season in Chicago after leaving Boston as a free agent, but he would hit over 10 home runs in his next 10 season with the White Sox, including 18 in 1991 when he was 43.

Sources: Retrosheet,, Chicago Tribune

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